Home sweet home for native bees

Chris Fuller of Kin Kin Native Bees.
Chris Fuller of Kin Kin Native Bees.

THE very successful Valley Bees group is co-operating with Gympie Landcare in establishing a bee garden and a bee wall.

First a number of bee-attracting plants must be established, the second involves creating nest sites for many of our native bee species.

As was explained at a recent joint workshop attended by about 60 people, bees ain't bees, there being a range from the familiar honey bees, to small stingless native bee that builds hives, and thousands of native solitary bee species.

It was mainly for the latter species that the bee wall has been created.

Local apiarist Athol Craig said bees of all types were facing a number of serious threats.

"If we do not have bees we do not get crops pollinated," he said. "Our bee populations are facing threats from loss of habitat, pollution and pests and diseases."

Mr Craig said Valley Bees were attempting to redress that situation by providing an increased knowledge level for people wishing to care for and maintain bees.

While there are more often than not sufficient food sources for native bees, nest sites especially for the solitary bees are frequently in short supply. The bee wall hopes to address this, not only by providing numerous nest opportunities but also by providing a permanent place for people to learn what is required.

Native bee expert Chris Fuller, of Kin Kin, said everyone could play a part and in the process become more aware of the importance of native bees.

CSIRO entomologist Tim Heard, who generously donated one of his native bee hives to the garden, said that 99% of our native bee species were solitary in that they did not co-operate with other members of the species in the way that honey bees did.

He said that most of our solitary native bees made nest holes of some sort. "These can be in grass stalks, in holes in the ground, in chewed out holes in soft or rotting timber," Mr Heard said. "The common factor is that each species has specific requirements regarding hole size, depth, orientation etc."

Mr Heard said one important way to encourage solitary bees as crop and native flora pollinators was to provide nest sites, as that was probably the most limiting factor in their life cycle.

He said that nest hole depth determined the male/female ratio at hatching, with females coming from eggs laid first at the lower end of the hole.

Topics:  apiarist environment farming landcare

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